Don’t question it. Consider it a gift of that great Fenway Ghost who knows exactly how to delight when Red Sox fortunes are sagging.
It was fate that arrived along with a crowd of 32,786 yesterday and watched the Red Sox come to life for a 9-2 victory over the Angels that tied the best- of-seven American League Championship Series at a game apiece. Little else can explain a day, a game and an experience that the California Angels won’t forget for a long time.
This wasn’t Red Sox baseball. The final score doesn’t begin to reflect the barrage of errors, mental mistakes, muffed grounders and adventures created by the sun that you wouldn’t see in the Little League World Series. If Abner Doubleday had seen this, he would have invented basketball.
“In the 45 years that I’ve been in the game,” said Angels manager Gene Mauch, “I’ve never seen a man pitch as well as Kirk McCaskill did and give up six runs. There were all kinds of mistakes, and there is no use discussing them.
“I don’t understand it. We were terrible on ground balls. Maybe it goes back to when I saw Mildred Cronin come to the ballpark in a green dress today. I said to myself that I hoped she didn’t bring any of those gremlins with her.”
It is extremely doubtful that the presence of Mrs. Cronin, who was at the park to present an award in honor of her late husband, Joe Cronin, to Roger Clemens, had anything to do with the Angels’ loss. They were simply the victims of their own ineptness in the field and strong pitching by Boston’s Bruce Hurst.
The way to beat the Red Sox is to keep their bats silent. Considering the bizarre nature of his support, McCaskill performed a miracle for six innings, and the Sox were lucky to have a 3-2 lead.
But by then, the intensity that had carried them to the AL East title returned. The Red Sox surged for three runs in both the seventh and eighth innings to salvage a split as they head to Anaheim for Games 3-5.
“It’s a game of human beings,” said Sox manager John McNamara, whose club was able to break open a close game in the seventh thanks to a record-tying three California errors in the inning. “Errors are going to be made . . . not purposely.”
If you want an excuse, blame what happened on the 3:05 p.m. starting time, mandated by network TV. The bulk of the game was played under a tough sun.
“What happened to the Angels could have happened to anybody at any time,” said Red Sox right fielder Dwight Evans. “We just had a lot of breaks today and took advantage of them.”
The breaks came early for the Red Sox, who pounded McCaskill in the first two innings and were still lucky to have a 2-0 lead. The first-inning run was produced by a triple off the wall by Wade Boggs (sore right hamstring and all) and a double by Marty Barrett. Boggs’ wall shot took a hop over the head of center fielder Gary Pettis.
“I guess when Boggs hit that ball off the wall and Gary couldn’t field it, the writing was on the wall, so to speak,” said the Angels’ Rick Burleson.
The first-inning adventure was merely the foreword to a novel’s worth of misplays. The next chapter began in the second when four singles led to a 2-0 lead, including one ball that nearly devoured McCaskill.
Rich Gedman led off with a single and moved to second on a one-out single to short by Spike Owen, which was the second gift of the day. The ball struck a clump of dirt, and a sure double play became a rally. Next came Boggs, who hit a slow roller to the mound. The ball took a crazy hop, right into the sunlight, and McCaskill couldn’t make the play. Barrett followed with a single to left, scoring Gedman.
In the fourth, Boston showed it was not above the ridiculous. With runners on first and second and one out, Boggs messed up a double-play ball, loading the bases. Dick Schofield then hit a grounder to Owen, who decided to throw to third, only to find that Boggs wasn’t on the bag. Now it was 2-1.
The Angels tied it in the fifth on a homer by Wally Joyner, the first ever by a rookie in the ALCS. Boston regained the lead in the bottom of the inning, thanks again to the sun.
McCaskill gave up a one-out single to Bill Buckner, and with two out, he walked Don Baylor. Evans followed with a game-winning double that wasn’t exactly pulverized. What seemed a routine popup to second was lost by Bobby Grich. The sun and the wind dropped the ball among three Angels, and Buckner scored.
“It was one of those balls that you don’t know really where it was going to wind up,” said Evans. “They played it right and waited until it came out of the sun. But the wind caught it. When I saw them look at each other, I knew it was trouble.”
The Angels lost a potential run in the sixth when Grich tried to score from second on a single by Bob Boone. But he got no sign from third base coach Moose Stubing, who became the most embarrassed man in the park when Grich was thrown out. Grich then vented his frustration by throwing his helmet to the ground.
All this was but a prelude to the seventh, when Boston put the game out of reach. After striking out Barrett, McCaskill found himself with the bases loaded, and he’s still wondering how three runs scored.
Buckner reached when Grich made the first of three errors in the inning. A single by Jim Rice and a walk to Baylor loaded the bases. Evans hit a shot right at Doug DeCinces at third. He muffed it for an error, scoring Buckner.
Next, Rich Gedman hit a double-play grounder to second. But Schofield’s relay throw hit Evans’ right hand, and the ball rolled far enough from first base for two more runs to score.
“We’re taught to get our hands up in the air,” said Evans, whose takeout slide set up the throwing error by Schofield. “The ball did hit me on the hands and threw off the flight of the ball.”
The rest was icing. Rice’s first home run of the playoffs highlighted the three-run Boston eighth that showed why Gary Lucas and Doug Corbett haven’t been the workhorses of the Angel bullpen.
Hurst, who wound up with an 11-hitter, said he was happy he held his own in a tough spot.
“I wanted to go out and hold us close and give us a chance to win,” he said. “That’s the kind of team we’ve been, and we’ve been capable of scoring runs in the late innings. When Dewey hit that popup double, I just made it stand up.”
All things considered, it was a day well spent at Fenway.